Police say fugitive was ‘second most wanted criminal in Italy’ due to criminal gang links
Rocco Morabito, who is the suspected head of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta criminal gang, had been one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives since the 1990s.
He was arrested in a hotel room in the northeastern coastal city of João Pessoa, along with two other foreigners, according to a statement from the ministry.
One of the foreigners was reportedly also a fugitive, although the statement gave no further information on their identity.
“[Morabito] was considered the second most wanted criminal in Italy and accused of involvement with the ‘Ndrangheta, considered one of the largest and most powerful criminal organisations in the world,” the Justice Ministry said.
The ministry added that Morabito had already been sentenced to 30 years in prison in Italy.
Morabito had escaped from jail in Uruguay in 2019, when he and three other inmates fled through a hole in the prison roof while he was awaiting extradition to Italy.
The escape led to the resignation of Uruguay’s prison system director Alberto Gadea.
On Monday, the Federal Police added that Italian police traveled to Brazil for Morabito’s arrest and were involved in the operation.
The capture of the Italian fugitive underlines the growing importance of Brazil in the transatlantic drug trade, as the country has become a key player with its gangs working with Italian, Dutch and Balkan criminal groups.
The ‘Ndrangheta, which is based in the southern Italian region of Calabria, has surpassed Cosa Nostra to become the most powerful mafia group in the country and one of the largest crime gangs in the world in recent years.
Additional reporting by Reuters